Can the Chiefs defense put themselves in position to be one of the leagues’ elite?
After the last two seasons, Chiefs fans know what to expect with the offense. Patrick Mahomes and company will put up big numbers and always give the team a shot to win. Nothing is changing with the offense’s expectations. However, the defense could be very interesting this year. Last season, the defense definitely improved from their woeful 2018 season, but they still have some room for improvement to be one of the top defenses in the league. Here are five reasons that the Chiefs will, and five reasons the Chiefs won’t be a top ten defense in 2020.
Will – The defense has been consistently improving since the end of the 2018 season
After the 2018 season, the defense was the Achille’s heel of the Kansas City Chiefs. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was run out of town and players like Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Eric Berry were not brought back. A new era was established with coach Steve Spagnuolo and players like Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark. Under Sutton, the Chiefs defense was at the bottom of almost every category, but with Spagnuolo they were able to move up to the eighth-ranked passing defense in yards. They were still towards the bottom in rushing yards allowed but were greatly improved after the Tennessee game. Since that game, they only gave up 100 yards rushing four times including the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
Won’t – Bashaud Breeland will likely be suspended
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland probably will not be starting the regular season with the rest of his team in 2020. Breeland was arrested in April on multiple charges, including resisting arrest, having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana, and driving without a license. The cornerback was already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy prior to the arrest. He was a pivotal piece in the Chiefs’ Superbowl run and even contributed to that game with seven combined tackles, one pass defended, and one interception. He is planning to appeal the suspension.
Will – This will be the second year to acclimate to Steve Spagnuolo’s defense
With the first season under Steve Spagnuolo, there was an expectation that the team would need time to adjust to a new system. Now, with most of the starters returning, they should be able to pick up where they left off and get off to a fast start into the season. Last season, this defense showed flashes of what it can be towards the end of the year. They were able to shut down the best running back in the league, Derrick Henry, in the AFC Championship game. He was dominant against the Chiefs back in November.
Won’t – The Chiefs are lacking a true nickel cornerback
The Chiefs lost its starting nickel cornerback, Kendall Fuller, to free agency. While he wasn’t the most dominant member of the secondary, he was still serviceable and there is no clear replacement for him as of yet. Currently, Rashad Fenton seems to be the front runner, but he has never started a game in the NFL. Fourth-round pick L’Jarius Sneed could provide some competition to the position. Another option could be Daniel Sorensen, but he really is a better option at safety and not in coverage.
Will – The addition of Willie Gay Jr. and other draft picks look promising
In the second round of the 2020 draft, the Chiefs selected linebacker Willie Gay Jr. out of Mississippi State University. Gay Jr. scored a 93.9 PFF coverage grade which was the best in this year’s draft.
With some saying that there is a resemblance to Derrick Johnson, the former Bulldog should be able to step in immediately and have an impact. The aforementioned L’Jarius Sneed, defensive end Mike Danna, and cornerback Thakarius ‘BoPete’ Keyes are also rookies that have potential on the defense.
Won’t – Juan Thornhill will be coming off of a late-season knee injury
Safety Juan Thornhill tore his ACL in the final game of the regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers. He had surgery back in January to repair his knee.
While Thornhill did post on his Instagram that the surgery went well, it will still be a tough task for him to get back to 100 percent by the start of the season. Daniel Sorensen filled in nicely in his absence last year, but the secondary is already thin with the loss of Kendall Fuller.
Will – The Chiefs have a good amount of depth on the defensive line
Chris Jones is here to stay, everybody. Most people (me for one) doubted that it would happen. There was even speculation that he could hold out this season. Jones added to that speculation in a twitter reply to Arrowhead Live.
Now there is nothing to worry about and the Chiefs also added former first-round pick, Taco Charlton to the mix. Adding Charlton and with Jones, Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Pennel, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Khalen Saunders in 2020, could make this one of the best defensive lines in the league. In an article written by Caleb James of Arrowhead Live, it was stated that the Chiefs defensive line has the perfect combination of elite talent, butting potential, and versatile skillsets to be one of the elite units in the NFL this year.
Won’t – As the reigning champs, the Chiefs will have a target on their back
The Chiefs are the number one team in the league. They have the trophy to prove it. This also means that 31 other teams are going to be gunning to dethrone them as champions. Inside of their own division, the Oakland Raiders are trying to match the speed of the “Legion of Zoom” by drafting and adding free agent speedsters on both sides of the ball. Raiders GM Mike Mayock was even quoted as saying,
Let’s be honest, the entire world is chasing the Kansas City Chiefs, but we’re in the same division.
Teams from all over the league are going to be bringing their best to play the Chiefs and the defense is going to have to account for that. In 2020, the Chiefs will have to face off against five of the top ten offenses. One of those teams, the Chargers, they will have to face twice. Of those six games, four of them will be on the road.
Will – The Chiefs have young upcoming stars all across the board
The Chiefs defense isn’t just talented, they are young as well. The average age of all the players on the defense currently is 24.65. Daniel Sorenson is the oldest player at 30 years old. There are 26 players under the age of 25 on the defense, four of which are projected to be starters (Thornhill, Ward, Nnadi, Gay Jr.).
Won’t – The Chiefs will have to deal with the loss of Reggie Ragland and Emmanuel Ogbah
Two of the pivotal pieces of last season’s front seven, Reggie Ragland and Emmanuel Ogbah, left as free agents this past offseason. Ragland played a large part in improving the Chiefs run defense later in the season and was one of three players on the defense to score a touchdown. Emmanuel Ogbah finished third on the team in sacks despite only starting four games and ending his season in week 10 with a pectoral injury. Replacing these two will be a difficult task, especially in the case of Reggie Ragland. Ben Niemann and Willie Gay Jr. are likely candidates. Defensive end Alex Okafor filled in nicely for Ogbah, but guys like Taco Charlton and Tanoh Kpassagnon will also have to step up.
Honestly, whether or not the Chiefs can be a top ten defense should be a concern. As long as Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce keep doing what they do, the defense can be average. The exciting thing is though, there is a good chance that they will be a lot better than that. Good luck stopping a team that can score at will and shut down any offense that comes their way.